Every single human being you pass by today is fighting to find peace and to push back fear; to get through their daily tasks without breaking down in front of the bananas or in the carpool line or at the post office.
I read this today and… holy fuck. It struck me. It gave me chills in the metaphorical sense. It’s not a new concept to me.
There’s a famous quote: “Be Kind; Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle.” It’s so old that there’s disagreement about who first said it. It’s also a common enough concept that it’s likely that several famous people have shared this phrase or similar.
I’ve been wanting to write more recently but haven’t made it a habit yet, and I know that last April I challenged myself to write daily.
Today, on March 29, I’m starting, even if I’m only sharing a small snippet of something that I read and enjoyed.
Maybe daily writing will be more comfortable if I tell myself that it doesn’t need to be a long read, or take a long time to write. Perhaps sharing one small nugget is enough. (And you giggled at the word “nugget” you’re not alone. Any euphemism for poo makes me pause too.)
I’ve dashed this one off quickly with minimal editing.
The story behind the quotation at the start of this article.
It’s from an article called Everyone Around You is Grieving. Go Easy.I discovered the article when I checked the open browser tabs on my phone earlier. I don’t remember where I found it. It might have been in one of Josh Radnor’s Museletters. I could have saved it from a tweet or one of the articles aggregated by Nuzzel or another aggregator. I have several ways of flagging articles to read later. I rarely open them in new browser tabs on my phone.
I suppose that I needed it and was meant to find it today.
That’s how the universe usually works. I don’t even know who the writer, John Pavlovitz, is. I’ve never heard of him. His website says that he’s “a 20-year veteran in the trenches of local church ministry.”
Everyone is grieving and worried and fearful, and yet none of them wear the signs, none of them have labels, and none of them come with written warnings reading, I’M STRUGGLING. BE NICE TO ME.
I’m not sure that everyone is grieving and worried, but yeah, we all have our shit. The people who seem to have it all together are often the ones losing their shit most intensely on the inside. The bullies are hurting because hurt people hurt people. The person honking their horn behind you at that red light might legitimately be an impatient prick, but something negative made them that way, and it’s something that still haunts them on some level. More immediately, they could be having a bad day. Imagine a project gone wrong. A sick child. Nightmares. Financial troubles.
We’re all living with a lack of total peace.
Be nice to everyone.
We need to remind ourselves just how hard the hidden stories around us might be, and to approach each person as a delicate, breakable, invaluable treasure — and to handle them with care.
Why I chose the stock image up top
My first search was for “sad,” and then I decided that a photo portraying sadness would be too obvious.
You never know what’s going on behind a smile.
I know that these are staged stock images, but we’re all staging ourselves. We’re all slapping smiles on top of our insecurities, worries, and fears. We’re all smiling during times of grief.
The original article is specifically about grief. As I told a friend last night whose mother suddenly died this past New Year’s Eve, there’s no one way to grieve. Everyone grieves in a personal way.
Maybe the smile comes back in flickers. Maybe you laugh at the funeral and feel guilty about it. It’s feasible that you laugh and are entirely comfortable about that laughter. Hey, laughter is a totally reasonable response when one is nervous or scared. Our dearly departed loved one might have been the type of person to crack jokes and laugh at a funeral and appreciate it when others do.
Don’t feel you need to react a certain way or that your way is wrong. No one is judging you, and if they are, it’s not about you, it’s about their own shit. We all have our own shit.
But maybe you don’t smile right away. Maybe it takes weeks or months to smile consistently. Grief is grief; pain is pain; insecurity is… you get the picture. It is all acceptable.
I’ve been saying this for years: Discomfort is also not a pissing contest. Someone else might have it “worse” than you, but that doesn’t mean that your pain or suffering is any less valid than theirs. I repeat:
Pain is pain.
This belief — and the acknowledgment that we’re all dealing with stuff — is why the often disparaging and often self-mocking phrase, “First world problems” annoys me. Yeah, we might have privilege, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have problems. They might not be your problems, and they might not be significant in the sense that they affect a lot of people, but they exist. Many human experiences are not limited to gender, race, class, etc. Others are.
There are many negative experiences that I won’t have because I’m a white woman and maybe that goes beyond “First world problems.” I can’t relate to third world poverty, but I can sympathize. I don’t share the same problems as my pale-skinned bi-racial friend. When she experiences racism I can sympathize, and I can learn from her experience — and have. She also has health issues — primarily an invisible disability — that anyone, regardless of race or gender, can have. These aren’t “[blank] world problems,” they’re human problems.
I can say that phrases like “First world problems” can make us hesitant to share our troubles because we don’t think those problems are worthy. We don’t think we’re worthy. We don’t see value in our issues when others have it “worse,” and so maybe we don’t see out help when we need it. We dismiss ourselves. We do ourselves a disservice.
When I was in my early 20s, I had a near-suicidal experience. It was one of the few times I ever got close. I emailed a group of friends about it after because I needed help. It was the first time I’d ever talked openly about my depression because I’d heard other friends complaining that others in the group were always whining, “Why me?”
I didn’t want to give them a chance to say that about me. (Yeah, people can act shitty.)
I don’t want to turn this into another mental health post, so I’ll wrap it up.
We’re all doing our best, but none of us absolutely has our shit together.